Good Transition is More Than Just Magic…

According to IDEA Section 300.29:

(a) Transition service means a coordinated set of activities for a student with a disability that (1) Is designed within an outcome-oriented process, that promotes movement from school to post-school activities, including post-secondary education, vocational training, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation; (2) Is based on the individual student’s needs, taking into account the student’s preferences and interests; and (3) Includes (i) Instruction; (ii) Related services; (iii) Community experiences; and (iv) The development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives.” IDEA 2004

Currently, most Oregon students with intellectual disabilities still continue to leave school without paid employment. Students who experience more significant disability labels also experience less community work experience exposure and limited placement. This in turn limits their options as potential workers once they leave school.

If we see IDEA as a framework to achieve successful transition outcomes, we need to think about providing services in community settings and designing community work experiences that are based on individual interests and preferences for every student instead of groups being taken all together to one community site. This means each and every student regardless of disability should have access to their “own” individual placement and work experience. The use of WIOA pre-employment funds for discovery or facilitated person centered employment could be used to determine best fit and interest. This could direct individual work experiences and begin to define supports needed for future jobs. The more significant the disability the earlier the student should begin this process as part of a school program rather than be excluded and limited to on campus experiences only.

Linkages to adult services and actual job search should also commence prior to leaving school with the idea that the paid job be located sooner rather than after leaving school. Ideally, schools and local providers would collaborate on the search using braided resources (WIOA, OVRS, ODE funding, etc.). If a school district is already utilizing state YTP funds, these programs should expand to include ALL students with intellectual disabilities rather than just serving some, as is currently the practice in many school districts.  Internships and training outside the school setting, located within existing businesses such as Project SEARCH could be facilitated within every community.

A stronger partnership that promotes supported employment needs to be in place for Oregon Department of Education, ODDS and OVRS, so we can realize the promise of successful transition under IDEA. The expectation that ALL students can and should work in paid community jobs across our state needs to be endorsed more openly by all three entities, and collaboration that leads to action. We can succeed in having ALL school Leavers with intellectual Disabilities leave school already in paid jobs! For perspectives from other national experts on transition from school to work, see articles by: 1) Grossi and Thomas, and 2) Munundar and Carlson.

– Debra McLean

Oregon APSE

Assistive Technology – Where to Start? By Ryan Farrow, WISE

We live in a world of unlimited choices. With the massive amount of assistive technology (AT) options, it is difficult to know where to start to discover what type of AT is right for you or someone you support.  Throughout the process of putting AT in place, there are several places we can get stuck. This short post is meant to provide some places to start. Today, I want to highlight a few resources that you can utilize to help you purchase the right equipment for yourself or someone you support by trying out the equipment ahead of time. To make an informed choice on what AT is right for you, explore some of the following options:

  1. Explore your state’s Assistive Technology Act Program: Click here to find your state’s program. In Washington for instance, the Washington Assistive Technology Act Program (WATAP) has a device lending library, which allows people to rent equipment (for a small fee) to try before you buy. Most pieces of equipment can be rented for up to 5 weeks. I have rented analog and Bluetooth switches, iPad’s with pre-loaded apps, and iPad mounting systems for wheel chair attachments.
  2. Funding Opportunities:
    1. Talk to you case manager about Medicaid-related funding, including the Community First Choice Option.
    2. Explore NW Access Fund to start an Individual Development account to receive matching funds toward a device. They also offer low-interest loans for larger purchases.
    3. Connect with your local Vocational Rehabilitation office. While seeking employment, Vocational Rehabilitation counselors can request AT assessments and purchase equipment to for workplace accommodations.
    4. Stay connected with Autism Speaks to apply for iPad grants
    5. For Communication-specific AT needs, Speech-Language Pathologists can make recommendations on Speech-Generating Devices, which can then be prescribed by your doctor as a medical necessity.
    6. Physical and Occupational therapists can also recommend mobility devices and tools for activities for daily living.

Technology opens doors and can help people to unlock their true potential. Whether you have a need identified or you just want to explore cool AT, the above resources provide a great starting point. Check them out!